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ON EVE OF TITLE DEFENSE, KIPLAGAT IN “RIGHT MOOD” IN UDINE
UDINE, Italy – When she sets out to defend her World Road Running title on Sunday, Lornah Kiplagat will be also be aiming to join some fine company.
Counting the now discontinued World Half Marathon Championships, only Kenyan Tegla Loroupe and Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe, both three-time winners, have managed to defend their road running titles. And the Kenyan-born Dutchwoman, all around one of the finest road runners ever, is optimistic about joining that illustrious pair.
“Everything is going normally and everything is going well,” said Kiplagat, who last year lowered the world record in the 20km to 1:03:21 with her victory in the first edition of the reconstituted championships in Debrecen, Hungary. “I’m in the right mood going into the race. I've spent the last week in Italy, so it could be a good result.”
Kiplagat followed up with an overwhelming victory at the World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa last March, and is now on the rebound from a minor calf injury that sidelined her from the World Championships on the track in Osaka in August.
"My injury wasn't as bad as I imagined, but of course knowing how fit you have to be to run for the track, I wasn't fit enough for Osaka. It was unfortunate because I wanted to do three World Championships this year. So I wasn't fit for Osaka but at the moment I am fit, that's why I'm here and I feel good."
Kiplagat warmed up for Udine’s fast course with a comfortable victory in a 10km race in Utrecht, The Netherlands, last weekend, and isn’t ruling out an assault on her 1:06:34 half marathon career best from 2002.
“Of course I cannot say I can do it tomorrow but I'm feeling good and fit,” she said. “Everything else just has to come together. At the moment I'm feeling good and just hoping for the best.”
Kiplagat added that she’s not feeling the least bit of pressure as defending champion. On the contrary, she’s eagerly looking forward to her outing.
“I like running road and I don't have stress about it. I just enjoy it. It doesn't give me pressure - it gives me a lot of support.”
Kenya, the defending team champion, looks to mount the toughest challenge. Susan Chepkemei, also on the return from injury, may want the title more than any other, after taking three successive silver medals beginning in 2000, and bronze in 2005.
The U.S. squad is led by Olympic marathon bronze medallist Deena Kastor, fresh on the heels of her fifth national title over 10Km in Boston last weekend. The U.S. has never won a team or individual medal at either version of these championships.
In addition to six-deep prize money --winners receive $30,000, runners-up $15,000-- world record bonuses of $50,000 are on offer for the half marathon distance, as well as for en route performances for 10km, 15km and 20km.
A year ago IAAF President Lamine Diack announced the day after her run in Debrecen that Kiplagat would receive a $50,000 for her world record. While Kiplagat said the bonus was “wonderful recognition” for her achievement, she believes that the amount is not enough.
“When a world record is broken at a World Championship there should be fair play,” she said. “On the track when a record is broken there is a $100,000 bonus. I appreciate what they are doing, but I like road running so much, I want fairness that it should be the same because it looks bad that a World record on the track is worth more than a world record on the road.”
While the race returns to its original half marathon format on the quick Udine course, it’s not necessarily a permanent move. When the championship was repackaged last year, the distance to be run wasn’t set in stone, IAAF General Secretary Pierre Weiss said, in order to give more flexibility to the event organizers. “It can be 15k, it can be 20k,” he said.